Through the recent election process, we made every effort to keep the Convention free of politics. We do not endorse candidates, nor do we endorse political parties. I do not think we ever violated that commitment. But the election is over.

Last Wednesday, our staff watched one of our own cast his first vote as a member of the United States Congress. U.S. Rep. James Lankford stood to vote for the new speaker of the House of Representatives. What a rush! What pride and joy we all felt as he announced his vote.

The media’s characterization of James is amusing to me. He is always depicted as the former youth camp director. For some, it is a form of derision. For those of us who have worked beside James through the years, and for James himself, it is badge of honor. Falls Creek is no ordinary youth camp. The skill involved in leading an operation the size of Falls Creek has prepared James to successfully face the rigors of Congress. I suspect though that handling 55,000 youth and sponsors may look like a piece of cake compared to navigating the shark infested waters of Congress.

I predict James will be a great congressman and leader. He is a gifted and articulate spokesman for conservative values that are founded upon a Judeo-Christian ethic. James has done his homework and has a great grasp of the issues that confront our American way of life. I have every confidence he will represent the heartland in an exemplary manner.

James is a man of deep spiritual commitment built on the foundation of the Word of God and his vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. For him the Bible is not just a book; it is the book in his life. Many times, James and I have sat together in the midst of difficult circumstances. He has always demonstrated great confidence in God’s guiding hand. He is a man of prayer. James is a man of integrity and can be trusted. Frankly, he was the Tom Landry of youth ministry—steady and measured.

When he shared with me that he felt called to run for Congress, I was stunned. If he had told me he was leaving the convention to pastor a church I would have not been surprised. He is an outstanding preacher of the Word. I remember sitting at Starbucks with him listening to his very measured words as he described a Macedonian call experience. When he concluded, my head and heart were overwhelmed. While I did not understand, I had no doubt God had spoken to James.

James is loved and respected by all of our BGCO team. We miss having him as a part of our team. I missed Cindy, Hannah, and Jordan this summer at Falls Creek. Hannah and Jordan have grown up in the apartment below mine at the Creek. It was a great joy to watch them grow from babies to be very grown-up young ladies. I will miss their hugs and the art I would receive from them.

So please do not fault us for the pride we all felt when the clerk called the name of “Mr. Lankford of Oklahoma” to cast his vote. We did not violate our principles during the campaign. The convention was never politically aligned with James, nor did we use any influence in his behalf. But he is not a candidate now. He is our Congressman. Our pride is not in his political affiliation. No, our pride is found in his being a fellow Christian, Baptist and part of the BGCO family.

James, Cindy, Hannah and Jordan, we are so proud of you. You are in our prayers and in our hearts.

Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.